Not all sf made it into the Penguin Science Fiction series. Novels by Orwell, Huxley and L P Hartley all remained outside, presumably because they were mainstream authors and buyers looked for their books on the general fiction shelves.

JOHN CHRISTOPHER The Death of Grass, 1963 The Death of Grass (1300) by John Christopher

1963 reprint with a cover illustration by John Griffiths.
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The same cannot be said of Johns Christopher and Wyndham. A reprint of John Christopher's The Death of Grass had been due to launch the Penguin sf series back in March 1963 alongside Olaf Stapledon's « Last and First Men » but the reprint was put back four months and when it appeared it was packaged not as sf but 'a Penguin Book'. The banner was then used for John Wyndham's Trouble With Lichen and other books by these two authors.

JOHN WYNDHAM Trouble With Lichen, 1963 Trouble With Lichen (1986) by John Wyndham

First published 1960.

Published by Penguin Books August 1963 with a cover illustration by John Griffiths.
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The reason stemmed from Wyndham's reluctance to have his work labelled as sf and his insistence that Penguin market his books as mainstream fiction. The two Johns were good friends and it seems the reluctance of one rubbed off on the other. The use of abstract and surrealist cover art was avoided too, though arguably to the detriment of the books themselves as their covers paled alongside those in the Penguin sf series.

JOHN WYNDHAM The Day of the Triffids, 1963 The Day of the Triffids (993) by John Wyndham

1963 reprint with a cover illustration by John Griffiths.
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Wyndham's wish to be regarded as a mainstream author was never quite fulfilled. To readers and critics he was an sf writer and always would be. For ultimately sf is whatever readers identify as sf, or, as Harry Harrison put it, 'sf is what I'm pointing at when I say science fiction'. Harrison's tautology demonstrates the difficulty of defining sf, for while the debate continues the fact remains: science fiction is science fiction, as sure as eggs is eggs.

JOHN WYNDHAM The Kraken Wakes, 1963 The Kraken Wakes (1075) by John Wyndham

1963 reprint with a cover illustration by Denis Piper.
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JOHN WYNDHAM The Chrysalids, 1964 The Chrysalids (1308) by John Wyndham

1964 reprint with a cover illustration by John Griffiths.
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JOHN WYNDHAM The Seeds of Time, 1964 The Seeds of Time (1385) by John Wyndham

1964 reprint with a cover illustration by John Griffiths.
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JOHN WYNDHAM The Midwich Cuckoos, 1964 The Midwich Cuckoos (1440) by John Wyndham

1964 reprint with a cover illustration by Paul Hogarth.
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JOHN WYNDHAM and LUCAS PARKES The Outward Urge, 1964 The Outward Urge (1544) by John Wyndham and Lucas Parkes

1964 reprint with a cover photograph showing NASA's Mercury-Atlas 6 rocket lifting off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, in February 1962.
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ALDOUS HUXLEY Island, 1964 Island (2193) by Aldous Huxley

First published 1962.

Published by Penguin Books September 1964 with a cover illustration by Lacey Everett.
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Utopian fiction was less common in the twentieth century than its dystopian counterpart and by no means all utopias, or indeed dystopias, are sf. The idea of a perfect society stretches back to Greek antiquity and Plato's Republic, although the term 'utopia' was first used in 1516 as the title of Sir Thomas More's novella about an island free of poverty, crime and other social ills. Neither The Republic nor Utopia is sf, of course; the time for that was during the second half of the nineteenth century when a wave of utopian sf appeared, and peaked in 1888 with « Looking Backward » by Edward Bellamy. Aldous Huxley's Island is one of the more recent utopias that qualifies as sf, if only by way of contrast to the « Brave New World » he created thirty years earlier.

JOHN WYNDHAM Consider Her Ways and Others, 1965 Consider Her Ways and Others (2231) by John Wyndham

Six stories, first published as a collection in 1961.

Published by Penguin Books February 1965 with a cover illustration by Herbert Spencer.

Consider Her Ways
Odd
Oh, Were, Now, is Peggy MacRafferty?
Stitch in Time
Random Quest
A Long Spoon
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Consider Her Ways and Others was a Penguin with a peculiar cover by Herbert Spencer, the founder and editor of the influential design journal Typographica. Spencer's blurred image of a giant syringe puncturing a doll's arm at first suggests he had misread the cover brief and confused heroine for heroin, though in fact it is a trippy reference to the title story.

JOHN CHRISTOPHER The World in Winter, 1965 The World in Winter (2131) by John Christopher

First published 1962.

Published by Penguin Books July 1965
* with a cover illustration by Bruce Robertson.
L P HARTLEY Facial Justice, 1966 Facial Justice (2455) by L P Hartley

First published 1960.

Published by Penguin Books June 1966. The cover shows A Thousand Girls (Milles filles, 1939) by Hans Bellmer.
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It is not uncommon for mainstream authors to try their hand at sf so L P Hartley's presence here is no great surprise. Though best known for The Go Between, Hartley's one attempt at sf yielded Facial Justice, a dystopian yarn set some time after World War III when only isolated pockets of humanity remain. The novel tells the story of Jael 97, a young woman living in a post-apocalyptic community whose unseen dictator turns out to be a little old lady, thereby recalling in all but gender the eponymous ruler in L Frank Baum's classic story The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. But unlike Oz this is a society where women who are considered either alpha (pretty) or gamma (ugly) are encouraged to undergo plastic surgery to make them beta, or pretty ugly. This is done to promote equality and banish envy, and while the gammas are keen, the alphas are less so, for this is no nip and tuck – the entire face is removed and replaced by a synthetic one.

The novel brings new meaning to the term 'losing face' and like Bernard Wolfe's « Limbo '90 » it is full of wordplay. With slogans such as 'betafied means beautified' littering the narrative, Hartley's tongue-in-cheek (it is tempting to say facetious) intentions are all too clear. Perhaps he should have taken a leaf out of his own book, for if surgery is the solution then this is a novel in need of a scalpel. As a short story it might have worked better. Or should that be beta?

GEORGE ORWELL Nineteen Eighty-Four, 1966 Nineteen Eighty-Four (972) by George Orwell

1966 reprint. The cover shows The Control Room, Civil Defence Headquarters (1942) by William Roberts, at the Salford Art Gallery in Manchester, England.
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ALDOUS HUXLEY Island, 1966 Island (2193) by Aldous Huxley

1966 reprint with cover art by Ross Cramer.
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The artwork for the 1966 reprint of Huxley's Island is more in keeping with the novel's utopian ideals than its pyrotechnic cover of two years earlier. With no Marber grid or Penguin banner, the image fills the entire cover, suffusing it with an aura of zen-like calm. One could be forgiven for thinking that the man in the water is day-dreaming rather than ship- wrecked and half drowned as he floats face up in the shallows of the novel's eponymous isle.

At first glance the intricate web-like pattern on his face and head brings to mind the use of henna for body decoration, a custom practised in parts of Asia and a reference to the novel's geographical setting, but on closer inspection the pattern reveals an Arcadian shoreline, and like the island he is drifting towards, his face is a cliff face, replete with tropical vegetation. 'No man is an island', wrote the English metaphysical poet John Donne in 1624. Well, this one is.